The long and complex history of the philosophical traditions in South Asia is closely connected to the development of dialectics and logic. The two theoretical enterprises of dialectics and logic involved not only codifying, analyzing and regulating debates, but also reasoning in general. This project is undertaking philological groundwork combined with historical contextualization of an early medieval text on logic, the “Commentary on the Rules of Debate” (Vādanyāyaṭīkā) composed by the famous philosopher and monastic dignitary Śāntarakṣita (ca. 725–788 CE). It is a creative commentary on the “Rules of Debate” (Vādanyāya), one of the last works by the major Buddhist epistemologist and logician Dharmakīrti (between 550 and 660 CE).
Highly interesting in Śāntarakṣita’s commentary are his philosophical summaries and digressions. Yet until now, many of them have not received any in-depth study regarding the author’s own original views on dialectics and logic. Moreover, our understanding of Śāntarakṣita’s commentary has been hampered by the inadequate state of its editions and inaccessibility of directly related manuscript material. The first editions of Dharmakīrti’s base text and Śāntarakṣita’s commentary were published in 1935/1936 by Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana, who had found manuscripts of both works in Tibet. Improving on Sāṅkṛtyāyana’s edition, Michael T. Much published a true critical edition of Dharmakīrti’s text (Vienna 1991). However, he did not have access to a good quality copy of the manuscript. Relevant manuscripts known to be extant in Tibet were out of bounds throughout the better part of the 20th century. This situation changed dramatically in 2004, when a cooperation agreement was concluded between the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) in Beijing. The CTRC library holds photographic copies of the manuscripts found by Sāṅkṛtyāyana in the 1930s, and they can now be used for work on these texts. This project will produce a new critical edition of the Vādanyāyaṭīkā based on these copies.
Within the framework of the project, Śāntarakṣita’s commentary will be historically contextualized in two interrelated ways: by clarifying its position within the author’s wide and multifaceted philosophical oeuvre, and by producing historical analyses of certain polemical and philosophical digressions found in the work. The project will thus contribute to a better grounded and more nuanced historical understanding of how debate was conceptualized and reasoning theoretically analyzed in South Asia during the medieval period, as well as how these aspects interacted with the development of various philosophical theories and ideas.